Fierce Heart: The Power of Women’s Voices by Elizabeth Cunningham

“Women, when you begin to make fierce sounds on your own, don’t be surprised if it’s difficult at first. Start gently. Get close to the earth. These sounds may bring up memories, emotions. Have a way to work with them. When you get together to make fierce sounds with other women, experiment. Try a growl, a howl. You are sounding for all the beings that have no voice. It’s bigger than your personal story. The sounds of outraged women have not been heard collectively on this planet for a long time. Let them out. We are a force of nature. It’s time to quit being afraid of our power. Many women are terrified of their outrage. They confuse it with anger. Anger is a small, though intense, emotion. Outrage is rooted in love.  It’s ok. Understand it’s time. Time for these sounds to come out.”Rebecca Singer, founder of the Fierce Heart movement

One hot summer day my friend Rebecca and I both participated in local marches in different towns in support of immigrants’ rights. A lively band called Tinhorn Uprising led our march in song. At Rebecca’s march there were choruses of an oft heard call and response: “Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” Nothing wrong with the sentiment, but Rebecca suddenly knew she was done with the old chestnuts, chants and songs. A powerful vision came to her:

Thousands of women in the streets, roaring, howling, banging pots and pans, beating drums, sounding their outrage on behalf of the planet. Women in an ancient lineage of women, raising their voices together, making fierce sounds beyond words.

The vision came to Rebecca, but she believes it belongs to all of us. She created a Fierce Heart FaceBook group, which now has nearly a thousand members. But, as Rebecca insists, joining a group on FaceBook cannot be a substitute for taking action. She encourages people to hold Fierce Heart practice in small or large groups of women, indoors and out. As of this writing, women have held practices in eight states and three countries.

I attended one of the first practices at Rebecca’s house. There were five of us, standing in a circle. As I let the sounds rise through my body, I felt memories rise also, memories of times when I felt helpless in the face of abuse. Many women have expressed trepidation about engaging in the practice for that very reason. As I made sound, I experienced a powerful sense of no longer being powerless. I could roar outrage on behalf of my younger self. From there, the sounds became less personal or perhaps transpersonal. The sounds of the fierce heart are the sounds of any mother creature defending young, or the sound of outrage at anything that has been forced—from the rape of our bodies, to the rape our earth and waters, to the corruption of our judicial system, to the plight of whales, salmons, bears, coral reefs, forests…

Next we practiced outside. Twelve women gathered in a public park, at least four of them with reservations.  We began by connecting with each other, holding hands, speaking our names. Then, with a tree of life meditation, we connected with earth and sky, reminding ourselves that we are part of all that is. We agreed to participate to whatever degree felt right to each of us and that silent support for those making sound was fine.  Then we let it rip, all of us. Our sounds came in waves. We rested between them the way a laboring woman might rest between contractions. We experimented, making sound facing in, then turning, linking arms, and making sounds facing out. We concluded facing each other, raising a huge wild sound that rose into the air. Then, as one, we knelt with our hands and foreheads on the earth, returning the sound of our fierce hearts to its source.

Afterwards one woman said, “That wasn’t just practice, we did something! It was real.” Women spoke of wanting to meet again to make sound on ridges, by rivers, at places and times of significance to them.  Even those who began with reservations felt exhilarated afterwards.

To bring ourselves another step closer to the streets, we next participated in a rally about climate change and experienced the challenges of being fully public. Addressing a crowd from a makeshift stage with a microphone was not part of Rebecca’s vision. And yet, however tentatively, a number of women stepped forward and participated, some of them moved to tears.

Can there be thousands of Fierce-Hearted women lifting their voices in the streets? If there were, would it change the world?  In some religious traditions, sound is the source of creation. Medical technology uses sound waves to destroy kidney stones. The truth is, I don’t know what effect our voices could have on the world. I do know that daring to make fierce sound changes me, changes us. It takes courage to let these sounds out. It is at once an act of vulnerability and of power. It feels right to make sound on behalf of our beloved earth, the source of all life.

Part of Rebecca’s initial vision included choosing a day when all Fierce-Hearted women make sound, wherever they are, in circles with other women or on their own. Sunday, October 28th is that day. Rebecca Singer will be sounding at Trump Tower in Manhattan at 1:00 pm. You are welcome to join her.

At 2:00 on October 28th I will be at on a hilltop overlooking the Hudson River at Poet’s Walk 776 River Rd, Red Hook, NY 12571. You are welcome to join me.

See the Fierce Heart page for more information about gatherings. Please feel free to create your own Fierce Heart event on October 28.  Sisters, let’s lift our fierce hearts and voices!


Elizabeth Cunningham is best known as the author of The Maeve Chronicles, a series of award winning novels featuring a feisty Celtic Magdalen. Coming November 1st:  the 25th anniversary edition ofThe Wild Mother, joiningThe Return of the Goddess, released last year in a 25th anniversary edition—two classic feminist novels. Elizabeth is also the author of Murder at the Rummage Sale. The sequelAll the Perils of this Night will be published in 2019. An interfaith minister, Cunningham is in private practice as a counselor. She is also a fellow emeritus of Black Earth Institute.


Categories: Activism, Feminism, General, In the News, Politics, Women and Community, Women's Power, Women's Voices

Tags: , ,

25 replies

  1. “Long long in the past,” I used to raise power in a circle of women through non-verbal chanting. Our howls of grief and anger were released just as you write about. Grounding is very very important when doing this work. All too often we did not know how to do that. And maybe after we howl our pain, we need to raise our voices in healing songs. The earth will absorb our grief and anger, but she also needs to be soothed as we need to be soothed.

    Here are some suggestions. “How Can Anyone Ever Tell You,” “We Shall Be Well” (inserting names and the earth in addition to we), and “Ancient Mother.”

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, Carol! That same thought came to me the other night, that the earth needs soothing. What a beautiful idea to include song in this practice. Thank you! I know the song Ancient Mother. We will sing it tomorrow in our circle.


  2. Elizabeth, thank you for this powerful and inspiring post! I like the idea of women releasing their sound together in public. Hope I can find a group where I live to do this practice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This wonderful post reminds me of how Celtic women, like those who helped stop the Roman army, if only for a short while at Anglesey, and Goddesses like the Morrigan would shriek and wail in battles. Women sounding in public is, as you indicate, something we haven’t done in a long time, but we did once. Now it’s time to use it for peaceful change rather than in war. I wish I could join you for your events, but I will be there in spirit!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Carolyn! In my novel Red-Robed Priestess I wrote about that event at Anglesey. I wrote about Boudica’s battles, too. A very hard novel to write. My narrative character Maeve Rhuad describes herself as a failed peace keeper. She was/is a witness for peace. I appreciate Rebecca’s understanding outrage being rooted in love. Here’s a brief excerpt from the novel, edited for brevity:

    “I sang and sang, other voices rose with me, high, eerie, dissonant, like birds of prey, some deep and mournful, as if a sea monster sobbed…
    “Look!” Moira suddenly cried out, pointing across the straits. “Look, over there. Everything has stopped. They’re standing frozen, some with one leg in and one out of the boats. They’re scared of us, our song scared them. Come sisters…lift up your voices, shriek and howl your prayers. Sing, for the love of Anu,sing!”


  5. The flyer included in the post is created by Rebecca Singer and used with her permission.


  6. Brava! And brava to Rebecca Singer, too. I’ve been to rituals and stood in magical circles where we raised energy chanting “Ma” and drew the sound out until it seemed to encircle us, then encircle the globe. Women filled with righteous anger and sounding our anger do indeed need to lift our voices. Let’s outshout the Abuser-in-Chief!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Now more than ever the Earth needs our love and our compassion… please do not release your anger to Her – she’s on overload.

    I agree that expressing our anger is appropriate ways is important but without concrete actions that ACTUALLY shift the system we shall re-live our her-story that is an atrocity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, we will not release anger to her. We will just offer our voices in service to her. The outrage being that of fierce love. And we will sing to her, songs of our love for her. Thank you!


      • And yes, absolutely, concrete action. I would hope that making sound in circle will help strengthen people to act in courageous and compassionate ways. Voting, protecting water, the list is very long of ways we can and must act.


  8. I’m a quiet person. When I’m very angry I go silent, but my eyes become like lasers that could chop you in pieces. It is “the Look” that scares away predators. But the other day, feeling the destruction of Mother Earth, I started to cry, and then, a howl rose up from my depths. Of course, it was a somewhat subdued, dignified howl, outwardly, but I knew the energy and agony of it. So I join with you, and with all women whose love is being wounded by injustice and oppression.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Cool! I will try to come to the Manhattan event. Thanks for initiating this!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Love that Fierce Heart, Elizabeth — read it several times, the drawing and everything so delightful, powerful, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. On the topic of women’s voices, and because we are now in October, and because I meant to include it above, the poem here (what’s called a “tanka” that is, in Japanese, simply a 5 line poem inspired by nature). The Japanese Buddhist nun who wrote this poem is named Otagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875) and here she says so profoundly and so beautifully:

    “Deep in the mountains
    A single branch of maple
    Near the door of my hut
    Marks the beginning
    of the days of autumn.”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I really like this idea as a personal potent practice, each week find the hill, the cliff to make noise. If possible, shoes off to feel the energy of the earth coursing through.

    Liked by 1 person

Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: